Eden Hazard is not fit enough to play for Belgium, says Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte has warned Belgium not to play Eden Hazard during the international break after expressing “surprise” the unfit Chelsea star had been called up by his country.
Conte revealed Hazard would continue his comeback from injury with the club’s under-23 side on Friday but declared he was still “not fully fit” following ankle surgery this summer.
Hazard was injured while training with Belgium, who called him up for their World Cup qualifiers against Gibraltar and Greece in the next week and a half.
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“If Hazard is ready, why doesn’t he play with us?” Conte said. “Why is he playing this afternoon with the under-23s to continue to try and improve his form?”
Insisting he “respected” the decision of Belgium boss Roberto Martinez, Conte added of Hazard: “I see him every day, I see him every day and, I repeat, in this situation, it’s very important to give the right time to players to recover very well.
“Hazard is an important player for us. If someone thinks to accelerate the process… I think it’s not the right way. It’s a great mistake. At this moment, I think we must pay great attention not to make mistakes.”
The international break will also herald the closure of the transfer window after which Chelsea play seven games in just three weeks as a consequence of being back in the Champions League.
Reiterating the need for the club to strengthen their squad to cope with a workload they did not have during their Premier League title-winning season, Conte said: “If someone is thinking that I can use only 11 players or 13 players, it’s impossible. Impossible. I have to rotate these players. But we must be ready. We must be ready to face this situation.”
Declining to comment on Chelsea’s interest in Swansea City’s Fernando Llorente, he added: “We are trying to strengthen our squad and, if we are in the transfer market, that means we need to improve the squad. That’s logical.
“Otherwise, we’d stay out of the transfer market.”